April Hints and Tips

Spring  Show

April is the month that inspires optimism in gardeners, I think. Plants that have been dormant for months start to show new growth, seeds are germinating and the risk of frost is minimal.

Some of the most spectacular shrubs put on their show in April, including magnolias, azaleas, rhododendrons and Forsythia – they will all need dead heading next month!

Ornamental garden

  • The main risk of frost is past, so you can direct sow sweet peas and plant out Dahlias, Cannas, Gladioli, lilies and Nerines.
  • Prune Forsythia and Chaenomeles after flowering and, if you like the look of striking large leaves on your Cotinus (smoke bush), prune it hard back; you will not get any ‘smoke’ i.e. flowers, though.
  • Dead head daffodils and tulips, but leave the foliage to feed the bulbs
  • Trim back frost-damaged evergreen foliage and renovate broadleaved evergreens like Pittosporum, Photinia, Hebe, Fatsia and It is a good time to plant new evergreen shrubs
  • It is safe now to cut down the old stems of Gaura, Penstemon and Verbena bonariensis.
  • Remove old foliage from Pulmonaria (lung wort) at flowering time to make room for new, more decorative leaves that will develop.
  • Direct sow sunflowers, poached egg plants, California poppies and pot marigolds.
  • Apply weed & feed to lawns on a day when the leaves are dry but rain is expected

Kitchen Garden

  • Keep planting potatoes and keep sowing beetroot, carrots, lettuce, radish, turnip, peas, spinach and parsnips. Sow brassicas into a seed bed or pots.
  • Sow sweet corn, courgettes and beans indoors; wait until May to sow them direct.
  • Prune young plum and cherry trees as leaf buds open.
  • Open doors and vents of greenhouses during the day to prevent overheating.

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March Hints and Tips

March is a month full of hope for gardeners; spring bulbs are out and you can get onto the soil on good days.  The days reach equinox and the extended daylight stimulates growth of buds and seeds.

The temperature is unreliable, so it is a good thing to have fleece or cloches ready for when frost is forecast.

Lots to do in March!  – here are some suggestions

In the vegetable garden:

  • Sow broad beans, carrots, parsnips, lettuce and peas direct into the soil.
  • Plant out onion and shallot sets, so the tip of the bulb is visible at soil level…watch out, curious birds tend to tweak them out and ground frost can cause the soil to expand and push them up.
  • Start planting first early potatoes.
  • Under glass, germinate aubergines, cucumbers, peppers, chillies and tomatoes.

In the ornamental garden:

  • Prune last season’s growth of Hydrangea paniculata to the lowest pair of strong buds (They flower on new growth, unlike the mop-head hydrangeas which need to be cut to the first buds behind the old flower heads). Last year’s growth on Buddleia davidii can be pruned back to a framework to encourage the new growth that bears the flowers.
  • You could propagate Cornus, Cotoneaster, Cotinus, Chaenomeles and Magnolia by layering.
  • If Cornus is grown for its coloured stems, cut it back to a stool near to ground level, or, if that makes you nervous, cut a third of last year’s growth back and leave the rest until next year.
  • Tidy and divide herbaceous perennials
  • Dead-head daffodils but leave the foliage to feed the bulbs.
  • Start Dahlias and Cannas in compost under glass.

While the soil is moist, apply a thick mulch to help to retain the moisture over dry periods and to improve soil structure.  This will also help to suppress weeds.

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